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The value of free licences - are they worth anything at all?

Hi there,

I know that the title of this thread is very provocative but I think the problem I start to encounter can become a big danger to the popularity of free licences.

As I mentioned in another thread of this forum I run in my freetime (I am a student of social work) a podcast that is aimed at popularizing free licensed songs like "Creatice Commons" or "Licence Art Libre" licensed songs.
So in each episode of this podcast I introduce one musician who makes free licensed music with an interview toegther with one of his songs by a song critique.

Recently I stumble upon more and more problems with this project as I realise that some artists not only change the licence of their material to a more restrictive license but also become member of a collecting society as the french SACEM. This means that the rights that have been given to me with the free licence (e.g. to distribute a song, make derivative works of a song, use a song commercially) are taken away from me.

This is very dangerous to me as a user of free licensed material as I have no way to proove that I acted legally when I reproduced that song, made a derivative work of it or used it commercially. I cannot proove that the author has changed the license of the material after I picked it up. I suppose that screenshots that show the song together with the licence on a platform like dogmazic or the id3-tag are no good proove as both screenshots and id3-tags can easily be manipulated.
In the end I as a user have to life with the permanent danger to get prosecuted of breaking copyright laws because an author has changed his mind and with it also the licence or has become member of a collecting society. I remain without any rights on that material and even without the possibility to proove that I ever have been given the rights.

Why should a cultural association play CC-BY-SA-ND licensed songs at a public CC-BY-SA-ND party? Why should a DJ make derivative works of a Licence Art Libre song? Why should a moviemaker make a CC-BY-SA licensed movie in which he wants to use a CC-BY-SA song as soundtrack? Why should a coffee house owner play CC-BY songs for his guests?
Why should anybody use free licensed material when it potentially puts him into the danger of becoming a criminal?

To be honest I start to believe that CC or Licence Art Libre or whatever the names of those fancy licences are, are nice words but nothing more. As long as they give their users no predictability of legal decisions those licences are doomed to be a worthless expression of goodwill.

cheers,
Torsten

Réponses

  • Hi again,

    I got today tha answer from SACEM after I asked them last week if and how I can use free licensed songs that have been published BEFORE their authors became SACEM-members.

    SACEM wrote me:

    Bonjour
    Few precisions about our last answer.
    As he accesses membership of SACEM, the author has to bring his rights for public performance or mechanical reproduction. (Works before he became a member included whether they have been published or not under a free licence).
    Exceptions: SACEM's Board could under certain conditions and in very few cases allow new member to bring part of his rights (public performance or Mechanical licence)
    Philippe De Mont redon is a member of SACEM. His works are protected. About Frédéric Ribeiro please contact our General Documentation & Distribution Department that may give you more information soon.
    Regards,

    Cordialement
    La Direction des Relations Clientèle


    The sentence in brackets is what I wanted to know: Not only the rights for mechanical reproduction or public performance of free-licensed songs (meaning songs that are e.g. under a "Creative Commons" or "Licence Art Libre" licence) that have been published after an author became member of SACEM belong to the SACEM but the same is true for free licensed songs that have been published BEFORE an author became member of SACEM.

    This means that potentially any free licensed song can become unfree and taken away from common use. And it means that I as a user of such songs are under the permanent thread to become a criminal.
    Me as a podcaster of free licensed songs have to pay royalty fees when I discover that one of the musicians I introduced free licensed songs of in my podcast has become member of a royalty collecting society. About what happens when SACEM discovers before me that I don't pay the fees I can only fantasize that I had to pay an extra-charge as punishment for not paying right away.

    I think it just can't be true that common goods like creative commons licensed goods can just be taken away from the public without compensation as soon as somebody thinks that it's too good for public use. I call this piracy.
  • I think that the SACEM doesn't really know what a free license is and wants you to believe that free licences have got no value.
    But the question of the proof is really a big problem. That's why I think there should be an official site where authors could expose their licences.
    Anyway, you could ask to the artists you podcast their written authorization ?
  • Salut Incaudavenenum,

    and thanks for your interest in the topic.
    I think that the SACEM doesn't really know what a free license is and wants you to believe that free licences have got no value.
    I sometimes suppose they know exactly what a free licence is and are well aware of the problem but they don't know how to deal with it. Besides: the business obviously is still working great for SACEM. So it doesn't seem to be their problem, yet.

    I just send an e-mail to the creative commons initiative asking for some clarification about what value a cc-license has in the case SACEM pulls me on court for continuing to introduce free licensed songs of SACEM members that have been published before their SACEM membership in my podcast .
    That's why I think there should be an official site where authors could expose their licences.
    Indeed a good idea. Actually I know of one project that authors can use to stamp some kind of electronic-signature certificate on their free licensed stuff. It is done with adding a hash-code that is valid for seven years to the actual data and it can be used as a proof that this data has been under that license on that and that day. The name of this is Registered commons .
    The only problem is that nobody knows of this yet and there are still very few songs to be found there. - Anybody knows of other projects like this?
    Anyway, you could ask to the artists you podcast their written authorization?
    I do so but only by e-mail and I don't know how much proof an e-mail is.

    cheers,
    Torsten
  • I think as long as there are no court cases on this particular problem, there will be very little in the law to give an answer to your problem.
    As long as some musicians use these licenses as a way to promote themselves and not for any political reasons, they don't understand the implications of such licenses. These licenses are more like an oral agreement, nobody signs anything. But it's an an agreement nevertheless.

    That would be great if you could post the reply from Creative Commons though.
  • Salut,

    I promised earlier in this thread to ask the Creative Commons organisation about the above case. So here is the answer from the project manager of Creative Commons Germany, Mister Weitzmann, unfortunatelly in german.
    Hallo Herr Philipp,

    > Meine Frage: Welchen juristischen Wert haben CC-Lizenzen wenn ein
    > Autor Werke unter einer CC-Lizenz veröffentlicht und DANACH Mitglied
    > einer Verwertugnsgesellschaft wird, die davon ausgeht, dass die
    > Rechte (zur öffentlichen Aufführung und Reproduktion) der vor dem
    > Eintritt in die Gesellschaft unter einer freien Lizenz
    > veröffentlichten Werke nicht mehr gelten? Kann ich mich in einem
    > Prozess auf die CC-Lizenz berufen oder ist das so als ob ich im Laden
    > mit Spielgeld bezahlen möchte?

    im Detail ist das (leider) hier bei uns in Deutschland noch nie
    obergerichtlich getestet worden. Die rechtliche Theorie sieht so aus:

    Mittels CC-Lizenz wird ein Angebot bekundet, ein einfaches Nutzungsrecht
    (zur Vervielfältigung etwa) einzuräumen. Da es sich um eine public
    license handelt, kann dieses Angebot von jedermann durch Vornahme einer
    entsprechenden Nutzungshandlung angenommen werden. Hat also jemand in
    Kenntnis der Lizenz eine Vervielfältigung vorgenommen, ist ein Vertrag
    zwischen ihm und dem Urheber mit dem Inhalt der CC-Lizenz entstanden.
    Dieser Vertrag ist zeitlich und räumlich unbegrenzt und kann nur
    einvernehmlich durch Urheber und Nutzer wieder aufgehoben werden (was
    aber in der Praxis wg. der Anonymität des Netzes fast unmöglich sein
    dürfte).
    Wenn der Urheber später Mitglied einer Verwertungsgesellschaft wird,
    besteht das Nutzungsrecht zumindest derjenigen Nutzer weiter, die zu
    diesem Zeitpunkt bereits das Angebot aus der Lizenz angenommen haben.
    Auch wenn nur ein einziger Nutzer das getan hat, kann der Urheber
    insoweit der VG kein ausschließliches Nutzungsrecht mehr einräumen.
    Damit muss die VG leben, auch wenn sie das vorher eingeräumte
    Nutzungsrecht für ungültig halten sollte. Im Falle der GNU General
    Public License ist jedenfalls bereits gerichtlich anerkannt worden, dass
    eine public license wirksame Nutzungsrechts zur Folge hat.

    Wie die jeweiligen VGen auf diese Situation reagieren, ist mir leider
    aus praktischen Fällen nicht bekannt. Denkbar ist, dass sie einfach für
    die betroffenen Werke die Rechtewahrnehmung verweigern (was sie
    zumindest nach der kommenden Lizenzversion 3.0 wohl nicht mehr tun
    dürften, aber das ist ein anderes Thema). Einen anderen Weg geht die
    dänische KODA, die zumindest CC-NC-Lizenzen bei ihren Mitgliedern
    toleriert und die Zweitverwertungsrechte auch für diese Titel wahrnimmt.

    > Der Hintergrund: Ich bereibe einen Podcast indem ich Musiker
    > vorstelle, die Lieder unter einer freien Lizenz veröffentliche. Dabei
    > stelle ich auch solche Lieder zum Anhören und Download zur Verfügung.
    >
    > In letzter Zeit kam es vor, dass ich Künstler vorstellte, die Lieder
    > unter einer CC-Lizenz veröffentlichten BEVOR sie Mitglied einer
    > Verwertungsgesellschaft wurden. Nach Rücksprache mit der
    > Verwertungsgesellschaft (in dem Falle SACEM) wurde mir die weitere
    > Aufführung und Reproduktion untersagt.

    Das ist unschön. An Ihrer Stelle würde ich auf jeden Fall verlangen,
    dass man Ihnen erklärt, aufgrund welcher Rechtsauffassung man meint,
    dass die Nutzungsrechte von vorher unwirksam geworden sein sollen.

    Wie sehr Sie auf der sicheren Seite sind, hängt m.E. maßgeblich von der
    konkreten Formulierung der Wahrnehmungsverträge der SACEM ab. Wenn darin
    der SACEM einfach nur durch den Künstler ausschließliche Nutzungsrechte
    eingeräumt werden, ist es kein Problem, denn bzgl. der vorher
    CC-lizenzierten Werke hat er diese ausschließlichen Recht nicht mehr und
    die SACEM folglich auch nicht. Wenn im Vertrag aber zusätzlich steht,
    dass auch beim Künstler evtl. verbleibende einfache Nutzungsrechte nicht
    mehr anderen eingeräumt werden, wird das Eis dünner. Auf dieser weiteren
    Einräumung von Nutzungsrechten basiert nämlich Ihr Nutzungsrecht als
    Podcast-Betreiber. Die CC-Lizenzen sehen zwar vor, dass bei Weitergabe
    "automatisch" diese Nutzungsrechte angeboten werden, ob diese
    Konstruktion allerdings gerichtlich standhält ist unklar und wohl auch
    weniger sicher als das Grundkonzept der public license an sich.

    Ich habe eine Anfrage zu genau der von Ihnen genannten Konstellation Anfang des Jahres an eine große Verwertungsgesellschaft geschickt, bisher aber nur ausweichende Antworten erhalten.

    So what I understand from Mr. Weizmanns answer is that there have not been any court decisions about such cases. The collecting societies try to avoid any clear statements about this topic. In Mr. Weizenmanns opinion it is the exact formulation in the "Wahrnehmungsvertrag" between artist and collecting society that decides how much on the safe side users of free licensed music that stems from artists who are member of this collecting societies are.

    Unfortunatelly I am not able to translate the whole answer into english, as there are many juridical formulations and terms in Mr. Weizmann's answer I don't know. If anyone else is up to translating this into french or english you are more than welcome.

    cheers,
    Torsten

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